Mercedes GLA vs GLC

Which of these German luxury compact crossovers should you pick?

Mercedes GLA vs GLC
Mercedes-Benz

The Lowdown

The Mercedes GLA is a subcompact SUV and the smallest in the manufacturer's SUV lineup. The Mercedes GLC is a compact SUV and is therefore slightly bigger both inside and outside. However, the GLA has been the subject of more recent improvements.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class SUV GLA 250

MSRP
$36,230
Body Type
SUV
Horsepower
221
Weight
N/A
Seating
5
MPG (City/Hwy)
25 / 34

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class SUV GLC 300 SUV

MSRP
$43,200
Body Type
SUV
Horsepower
255
Weight
3,889 lbs
Seating
5
MPG (City/Hwy)
22 / 29

Note: Images shown may not represent trims

Since its founding in 1926, Mercedes-Benz has been synonymous with style, quality and performance. The German manufacturer has long been a leader in the automotive industry and its range of GL SUVs are no exception. 2021 has brought with it a range of new models, catering to a variety of needs and desires for those in the market for a luxury SUV.

The subcompact GLA and the compact GLC bring a lot to the table, as you would expect from luxury SUVs in their classes, but which is right for you? At first glance, there are key differences in price and size, but what really sets these two vehicles apart? Let’s take a look at how the two SUVs compare across in different aspects.

Pricing

The size difference between these SUV’s shows immediately when comparing prices. The subcompact GLA, the most affordable member of the Mercedes SUV family, comes in at a modest $36,230. This will get you a 2.0L inline-4 turbo engine, with an automatic 8 speed, dual clutch transmission. For an additional $2000, you can get the AWD GLA 250 4MATIC.

Mercedes GLA 250 side view
GLA
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes GLC 300 side view
GLC
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

The compact GLC, is larger than the GLA, which is reflected in the sticker price. The base model GLC 300 comes in at $43,200. Similar to its compact counterpart, you can upgrade to the GLC 300 4MATIC for $2000. The GLC has a similar engine to the smaller GLA, packing a 2.0L inline-4 Turbo engine. However the GLC has a 9G Tronic, 9 speed automatic transmission, providing you with more control behind the wheel.

Unlike the GLA, the GLC is also available as a plug-in hybrid in the GLC 350e 4MATIC SUV. This costs over $50k right off the bat, though long-term fuel savings will make the purchase less painful.

Styling

There isn’t much to separate the interior of these two vehicles, from a functional point of view. Compared to their predecessors, less buttons have made room for digital instruments and controls, giving the interior a fresh feel.

Mercedes GLA 250 interior
GLA
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes GLC 300 interior
GLC
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

However, from an aesthetic point of view, there are some differences. The GLA's interior received a more recent makeover, and it features LED color strips and illuminated vents, giving it a modern, if not futuristic, touch. It also has one single panel that houses both the digital instrument cluster and infotainment.

Mercedes GLA twin displays
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
The GLA features twin screens on a single dashboard-spanning panel

By contrast, the GLC's interior is slightly more traditional, but does have a more premium feel thanks to its luxurious center console and selection of natural wood trims to choose from at no additional cost (the GLA only offers a walnut grain option, and it will cost extra).

Viewed from the exterior, both are very well designed. Given its modest price tag (in comparison to the C class) the A class has attractive lines and a lower profile which plays into its more compact nature. The C class, the larger of the two, manages to hide its bulk relatively well but not to the same effect. Despite these subtle differences, however, these SUVs could easily be mistaken for one another to the untrained eye.

Mercedes GLA 250 rear view
GLA
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes GLC 300 rear view
GLC
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Performance

Whilst both the GLA and the GLC pack a 2.0L inline-4 turbo engine under the hood, when it comes to output, the numbers don’t match up in the same way. The more compact GLA generates 221 horsepower and 258lb-ft of torque which although impressive in its own right, falls short when compared to the larger GLC.

Power is where the bigger GLC comes into its own. The GLC produces 255 horsepower and 273lb-ft of torque, giving it more towing power and the upper hand when it comes to acceleration. The GLC can do 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds, nearly a full second faster than the GLA’s 0-60 in 6.8 seconds.

The GLC also takes the lead in handling. The 9 speed transmission not only gives the driver more control but also provides the flexibility to drive the car to your tastes.

Of course, both SUVs deliver a quiet and smooth ride, even more so than some other key rival luxury SUVs like the equivalent BMWs.

However, since engine options are limited, spirited drivers will need to look into the pricier AMG range which really puts the two SUVs into a league of their own.

Mercedes AMG GLC
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
The performance-tuned AMG GLC

Practicality/Interior Space

From the outset, it would be fair to assume the compact C class would offer more space than the subcompact A class. Whilst both are 5 seater vehicles, the Mercedes GLA offers more leg room for its front and rear passengers. This comes as a result of a 2021 overhaul which reconfigured the interior layout. Expect the GLC to reclaim its legroom advantage at some point in the future.

Mercedes GLA 250 rear row
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
With recent changes, the GLA unexpectedly offers more legroom than the GLC

The Mercedes GLC does however offer more cargo room with a maximum 56.5 cubic ft of cargo volume when the seats are folded. The subcompact GLA has a smaller, but respectable, maximum 50.5 cubic ft of cargo space.

Mercedes GLC 300 trunk
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
The GLA and GLC (shown) both offer ample space in the trunk

Both are excellent daily drives, offering space and comfort to both driver and passengers.

Technology and Features

When it comes to tech, both the Mercedes A and C class SUVs come with a large amount of impressive features as standard. This includes Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), voice control and the ‘Hey Mercedes’ activation phrase.

You’ll also get a touch pad controller for the car (allowing passengers to adjust their comfort without hassling the driver), Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and touch controls on the steering wheel.

The only thing setting these two vehicles apart in this category is their displays. The Mercedes GLA has a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment whilst the GLC offers a larger 10.5 inch screen. To get the larger display in the GLA, you’ll need to option the Premium Package which will set you back a further $1750.

Fuel Economy

As is often the case, engines with a smaller output tend to be more economic. The subcompact Mercedes GLA delivers a respectable 25mpg in the city and 34mpg on the highway on a 13.5 gallon tank. Whereas the more powerful GLC, with a larger 17.4 gallon tank, will get you 22mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway.

Safety

Given the recent release date of both of these vehicles, both the GLA and GLC are yet to receive safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). They do however both feature a wide range of modern safety features with many extras available, plus, both the GLA and GLC come with 7 airbags as standard.

Also Consider

The Mercedes GLA competes against other luxury subcompact crossover SUVs, like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, Lexus NX and Volvo XC40. The Mercedes GLC’s key rivals, on the other hand, are luxury compact crossover SUVs like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

Sticking with Mercedes, we can't forget the relatively new subcompact GLB SUV. The GLB sits in between the GLA and GLC, and while closer to the GLA in size, is capable of fitting seven people. You can read our Mercedes GLA vs GLB comparison to learn more.

There's also the GLE, which is a larger, midsize SUV and the next step up from the GLC within the German automaker’s SUV lineup.

Verdict

When weighing up the two SUVs, it’s hard to split the pair. The Mercedes GLA costs less, but the Mercedes GLC SUV nets slightly improved performance, a stunning center console and a larger infotainment as standard. It also comes with some optioned extras that are unavailable on the GLA, such as a massive 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display or hands free tailgate opening “kick” sensor.

Overall, though, the decision should come down to the need for a larger car. The GLA gets our vote right now, because of recent changes which manage to make passenger space very comparable to the GLC, and the LED color strips and illuminated vents which add some futuristic pizazz. In any case, a test drive at your nearest Mercedes Benz dealer is the best way to settle the matter.

Full Comparison Table

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class SUV GLA 2502021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class SUV GLC 300 SUV
Performance
Engine2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Horsepower221 hp @ 5500 rpm255 hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque258 lb-ft @ 1620 rpm273 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
Transmission8-Speed Automatic9-Speed Automatic
DrivetrainFront-Wheel DriveRear-Wheel Drive
Max. Towing Capacity (lbs.)-3500
Handling
Steering TypeRack-PinionRack-Pinion
Front SuspensionStrutMulti-Link
Rear SuspensionMulti-LinkMulti-Link
Front Wheel Size18" x 7.5"18" x 8"
Rear Wheel Size18" x 7.5"18" x 8"
Front TireP235/55WR18P235/60VR18
Rear TireP235/55WR18P235/60VR18
Turning Diameter (ft.)-38.7
Fuel Economy
MPG - Combined2825
MPG - City2522
MPG - Hwy3429
Gas Tank Size (gallons)13.517.4
Cruising Range - City (miles)337.5382.8
Cruising Range - Hwy (miles)459504.6
CO2 Emissions, 15K mi/year (tons)6.47.2
Exterior Dimensions
Length (in.)173.6183.3
Height (in.)63.664.7
Max Width (in.)72.274.4
Front Width (in.)63.263.9
Rear Width (in.)63.263.7
Wheelbase (in.)107.4113.1
Weight (lbs.)-3889
Interior Dimensions
Passenger Capacity55
Legroom - front (in.)41.140.8
Headroom - front (in.)40.839.6
Hip Room - front (in.)57.3-
Shoulder Room - front (in.)55.957.3
Legroom - rear (in.)38.437.3
Headroom - rear (in.)38.139.6
Hip Room - rear (in.)57.3-
Shoulder Room - rear (in.)54.856.5
Infotainment
BluetoothStandardStandard
Hard Disk DriveNot AvailableNot Available
HD RadioStandardStandard
Satellite RadioOptionalOptional
MP 3 PlayerStandardStandard
Premium Sound SystemOptionalOptional
Wifi HotspotNot AvailableNot Available
Aux Audio InStandardStandard
Entertainment SystemNot AvailableNot Available
Comfort
Head Up DisplayOptionalOptional
Navigation SystemOptionalOptional
Steering Wheel Audio ControlsStandardStandard
Power LiftgateStandardStandard
Power Mirror SStandardStandard
A CStandardStandard
Adaptive Cruise ControlOptionalOptional
Automatic ParkingNot AvailableStandard
Climate ControlStandardStandard
Cooled Front Seat SOptionalOptional
Cooled Rear Seat SNot AvailableNot Available
Cruise ControlStandardStandard
Hands Free LiftgateOptionalOptional
Heated Front Seat SOptionalStandard
Heated Rear Seat SNot AvailableOptional
Heated Steering WheelOptionalOptional
Keyless EntryStandardStandard
Multi Zone A CStandardStandard
Power Driver SeatStandardStandard
Power Passenger SeatStandardStandard
Remote Engine StartStandardStandard
Remote Trunk ReleaseStandardStandard
Seat MemoryStandardStandard
Universal Garage Door OpenerOptionalStandard
Seat MassageNot AvailableNot Available
Rear A CNot AvailableNot Available
Keyless StartStandardStandard
Navigation From TelematicsNot AvailableNot Available
TelematicsStandardStandard
Interior Trim
Bucket SeatsStandardStandard
Cloth SeatsStandardStandard
Leather SeatsStandardStandard
Leather Steering WheelStandardStandard
Premium Synthetic SeatsStandardStandard
Vinyl SeatsStandardStandard
Woodgrain Interior TrimNot AvailableOptional
Sun MoonroofOptionalOptional
Safety
Back Up CameraStandardStandard
Cross Traffic AlertNot AvailableStandard
Rear Parking AidOptionalOptional
Blind Spot MonitorStandardStandard
Lane Departure WarningNot AvailableOptional
Lane Keeping AssistNot AvailableOptional
ABSStandardStandard
Night VisionNot AvailableNot Available
Tire Pressure MonitorStandardStandard
Brake AssistStandardStandard
Stability ControlStandardStandard
Traction ControlStandardStandard
Airbags
Driver Air BagStandardStandard
Front Head Air BagStandardStandard
Front Side Air BagStandardStandard
Knee Air BagStandardStandard
Passenger Air BagStandardStandard
Rear Head Air BagStandardStandard
Rear Side Air BagOptionalOptional
Seatbelt Air BagNot AvailableNot Available
Warranty
Basic4 Years / 50,000 Miles4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Corrosion4 Years / 50,000 Miles4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Drivetrain4 Years / 50,000 Miles4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance4 Years / 50,000 Miles4 Years / 50,000 Miles